The variation in physiological characteristics between tree species explains how the various species fit into their ecological niches, thereby contributing to diversity in tropical forests. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers from Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, and their colleagues from Utrecht University in a publication in the scientific journal PNAS.
Tropical forests are able to sustain hundreds of tree species on just a few hectares, but little is known about how this diversity has evolved. A study carried out by Frank Sterck, Lourens Poorter and Lars Markesteijn (Wageningen University) and Feike Schieving (Utrecht University) shows that the species examined all responded differently to variations in the availability of light and water because they had different physiological characteristics. Most of the species occupied a unique niche where they do better than the other species, which may contribute to the co-existence of these species and the diversity of the forest.
As part of the study, the researchers measured a range of physiological properties such as leaf surface area, wood density, photosynthesis capacity, leaf water potentials and resistance to water transport in tropical tree species from a Bolivian forest. They used a physiological plant model to calculate the speed at which the various species can grow when exposed to different combinations of water and light. The simulations show that variations in leaf production and photosynthesis capacity enable species to specialise for a variety of light niches. The sensitivity of stoma to drought in the various species (and therefore the water consumption) also varies, but this does not lead to trees becoming specialised for dry or moist locations in the same forest.
The researchers conclude that even in relatively dry tropical forests, light is the driving force behind niche specialisation in tree types. This makes sunlight more important than water in terms of whether different trees grow side-by-side or not.
This is one of the first studies for which physiological plant models have been used to scale up plant characteristics to the growth and survival of various tree species in order to explain the wealth of species in a tropical forest. In future, these models will also be used to look into the distribution of plant species along climate gradients.
Jac Niessen | alfa
Foxes in the city: citizen science helps researchers to study urban wildlife
14.12.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities
04.12.2018 | Ohio State University
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy